Teen Spirit: Generation Z are speaking out online


Charlotte, 16, is an aspiring journalist and advocate for GirlGuiding UK. In her first blog for Youth For Change, she talks about how Generation Z are using online tools to amplify their voices and help change the world around them.

People often think of teenagers using social media in a very superficial and shallow way. It is assumed that teens simply just share selfies on Instagram and start beef on Twitter, only really connecting to their close social network of classmates and mutual friends.

This is can be true, but only to a certain extent. Sometimes a tweet will be unleashed onto the world which will be the main topic of whispers in the school library the following day, with everyone scrolling through their newsfeeds trying to find the latest snippet of a juicy rumour that will create enough drama for a short while to distract us from our grades.

Social media: combatting apathy and amplifying Youth voices

However, this isn't the complete truth. Generation Z (the name coined for today's teenagers who are following the millennials) are using social media to a whole new level. Instead, there are a huge proportion of us who are using it to combat apathy and instead amplify our voices.

Our vain selfies are laced with body positive hashtags designed to eradicate the idea that low self esteem among youths is the norm. Young people had - and still have - an incredible part to play in the #BlackLivesMatter movement with relentless campaigning infiltrating timelines everywhere.

Some like to dismiss online activism (otherwise known as "clicktivism") by saying that it reduces the amount of physical action that goes into campaigning and is simply just a tool to make people feel better about themselves. However, online activism is giving the opportunity to young people, who may not be able to go out and march or get directly involved, to educate themselves on serious issues and make an impact. The revolution may not be televised, but it will be tweeted.  

Online activism - it starts with us

Malala's first blog, 2009

Malala's first blog, 2009

All of this can start with young people. Malala Yousafzai wrote BBC blog posts about what life is like under the Taliban, which was just the beginning of her global advocacy for education for all. Amandla Stenberg simply posted her school project entitled "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows" onto her Tumblr account which led to her achieving icon status amongst adolescent activists.

There are so many more young people who refuse to perpetuate the stereotype that teenagers simply do not engage and are apathetic.

We do get angry about current circumstances, and wish to channel that anger into positive energy. Teen angst can become a catalyst for change.

Connect young people - change the world

I am a member of Girlguiding's Advocate panel who are "a group of Girlguiding members aged 14-25 who discuss the issues girls and young women care about and seek change". We are dispersed all over the UK and are only able to meet up in London about four times a year.

However, we can connect on a regular basis whether it by retweeting each other or sharing articles on Facebook with one another. It's a comfort to know that as long as we have a good WiFi signal, we can still be part of a productive conversation with other young people about topics that matter to us.

So, yes - teenagers do have petty dramas thanks to 4G and emojis. However, we also are using our social media platforms to speak up about political and social matters, even if it's from the back row of a classroom. We already know that to an extent we are narcissistic and naive. But we are also fully aware that we are passionate and unapologetic despite our age.

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